The Essential Guide for Surfers on Sydney’s beaches

Did you know that over 2.2 million Australians hit the waves and surf recreationally?  With the spectacular Maroubra Beach right on our doorstep, we thought it was “high tide’’ for a post all about surfing. Here is the essential guide for surfers to avoid injury out on the waves.

The Benefits of Surfing

For your body

It’s possible to burn up to 1,000 calories an hour with surfing.  This makes it an energy-hungry activity and fantastic for losing weight, along with increasing the strength and muscle tone of your entire body. It is  good to remember that the amount of calories you burn will depend on your body weight, workout intensity and metabolism. This varies from person to person.

For your mind

Surfing has a positive impact not just your body, but also on your overall mental health. Studies have found that surfing can be useful and beneficial for treating Anxiety, Depression, PTSD and Bipolar disorders. Another reason to embrace the beauty of Maroubra’s surfing lifestyle.

Preventing the most common surfing injuries

Surfing is considered to be a safe sort, with 2.2 injuries per 1,000 surfing days. And the majority of injuries aren’t serious.

Don’t believe the hype about shark attacks. You are more likely to get a laceration or sprain through surfing, which account for 75% of all surfing injuries. This is followed by dislocations and fractures.

In terms of the area of the injury, 46% of injuries are sustained to the leg, followed by injuries to the head or face (26%), the trunk/back (13%) and the shoulder and arm (13%).

Precautions, warm-ups, understanding the ocean and checking your equipment before you go out, all significantly lower the risk of injury.

Safety tips for surfers

Surfing obviously looks cool. However it’s more complex and tricky than it looks.  There are a number of things that every novice surfer should remember before catching waves.

  • Get the right board: New surfers will benefit from using a longboard (or Malibu board). This board is designed to be easier to balance, stand up and paddle with.
  • Respect other surfers: Don’t cut in on other people’s waves. Many injuries result from collisions between surfers. Respect other swimmers: Remember that surfers aren’t allowed to surf between the flags on patrolled beaches.
  • Look out for other surfers and swimmers: If you see someone else in trouble, alert the life-guards or if it’s safe, assist the individual.
  • Slap on the sunscreen: Always wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days.
  • Do a pre-surf equipment check: Ensure that your board is waxed up and has grip. Ensure that your leg rope is in good condition. Use the leg rope on your surfboard if you are a beginner.
  • Wear a wetsuit and booties: A wet suit and reef booties aren’t just designed for colder weather. Remember that everyone has a different idea of what constitutes cold water. This extra layer can also offer some protection against sharp reef and rock collisions.
  • Know how to swim to (at least) intermediate level: The Australian coast is a fickle and unpredictable beast. So don’t tackle surfing in the ocean without first knowing how to swim. You should be an intermediate to advanced swimmer before you begin surfing, otherwise surfing will pose additional risks for you.

Learn how to read the ocean

Did you know that there are around 17,500 rips that are operating on the Australian coast on any given day? Surfers and swimmers getting caught in rips account for more deaths than other natural hazards, such as bushfires and cyclones in Australia.

Being out on a board in the water can feel very relaxing. However remember that it can also be a dangerous place. As a surfer, whether you’re a novice or a more experienced surfer, you should know how to read the ocean and avoid dangerous spots.

Where there is a rip, you will see:

  • Murky brownish water caused by sand being stirred up from the bottom of the ocean.
  • Darker colours in the ocean (indicating deep water).
  • A smoother ocean surface with much smaller waves, alongside white water.
  • Waves breaking further out to sea on both sides of a rip.
  • Debris, flotsam and jetsam that’s floating out to sea.

Warm-up before you surf

Surfing is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. It involves a lot of different muscle groups when you paddle out, catch a wave, balance on a surfboard and attempt aerial moves. Therefore it’s important to warm-up to prevent injury or painful muscle cramps once you hit the water.

Your warm-up should consist of exercises that increase the heart rate, release tight muscles and lubricate joints.

Breathing Squat: perform a squat movement, exhaling as the body moves down, and inhaling as the body comes back up, extending the arms towards the sky.

Warrior Lunge: Begin in a basic standing position and lunge forward into a lunge position, extend your arms to the sky, push up off front foot and back into starting position. To advance the movement, you can repeat the prior movement and then add a side bend in either or both directions.

Butt Drops: Reach towards the sky and then bend forward to touch your toes. Drop your butt towards your heels as you lift the chest to face forwards. The elbows are inside of the knees, pushing them outwards. Lower your butt as low as possible and keep your chest as tall as possible. Hold this position for one inhale/exhale and then lift your butt back towards the sky, as your head and chest move back towards ground. Stretch the hamstrings and repeat the movement.

Single Leg Upper Body Rotation: Stand on one leg with the knee slightly bent, and your hip pushed backwards. With your arms placed in front of the body, rotate from side to side slowly. Control the movement and remain balanced on one single leg.

T-Rotation Push-ups: Begin in push-up position, and then rotate one arm towards the sky, while simultaneously rotating the body onto one side. You are now balanced on one hand, with the other hand/arm extended towards the sky. Rotate back into push-up position and repeat on the other side.

Bent Shoulder Circles: Keeping a straight back, with slightly bent knees, bend the torso forward. Get to an angle where you begin to feel a light stretch in your hamstrings and bring the arms out to the sides into a T-position. Perform small arm circles for 30 repetitions in each direction.

About Maroubra Road Physiotherapy

Maroubra Road Physiotherapy treat muscle sprains, joint injuries, back, neck and shoulder injuries. In the past, we have treated many novice and experienced surfers in the local area. Coming in for treatment early on reduces recovery time and also the risk of injury recurrence. If you have a surfing injury, the experienced and friendly team here at Maroubra Road Physiotherapy hope to hear from you.

If you would like to book an appointment with one of our experienced physiotherapists, please make an online booking or give us a call on 02 9314 3888.



ABC Science (2013) Australian Surf Deadlier than Bushfires

Exercise and Sports Science Australia (2019) Want to be healthier and happier in 2019 – dive in!

Exercise and Sports Science Australia (2018) What exercise burns the most calories?

Sports Medicine Australia (2017) Surfing Fact Sheet

Surfer Today (2018) The Complete Guide to Surf Training

The Victorian Government Better Health Channel (2019) The Health Benefits of Surfing

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